A must see for any Beijing visitor is the Great Wall of China. World famous and an incredible sight (at least the first time around) it will blow you away twice: Once for the sight itself and once for the teeming businesses that have been built around it.
The Great Wall at 八达岭
八达岭 – one of your rallying points
The Great Wall features different sections, the most famous of which probably is 八达岭. This is due to it being closest to Beijing city and as such has been renovated and kept in good repair ever since it was opened for the visiting public. Plan a trip to the Great Wall in the mornings. You can simply take the 919 bus from 德胜门 station which will take you right there. It is a public bus so of you have a traffic card, you will pay only 40% of the official price. After your arrival you will have to hike a couple of minutes to the ticket booths past a newly renovated shopping compound featuring KFC, tourist stalls, Subway, some Chinese fast food, hotels and all else the Great Wall hiker may need.
The Wild Great Wall
If mainstream is not your thing
If you are keen on going down the road less traveled you are advised to go for the lesser known sections at 慕田峪, 黄花城 etc. These sections are in different state of repair and some of them feature laser tag, cable cars and bobsleds. There are even some places called the “wild Great Wall” where you will have to fight your way through undergrowth and over the ruins of glorious Chinese history. An anecdote from there: I went up one of the small watchtowers on a ladder. At the top there was a couth looking guy who I thought was another tourist. Then when I had taken in my fill of scenery, I was about to make my descent. The guy kept pushing the ladder away and then demanded money. While the whole situation did not make me feel comfortable about my trip up the Wall it clarified two things: Firstly, do not go to the Wild Great Wall without a native guide. Secondly, China has arrived on the world stage as a market economy indeed.